I love imagining Jesus walking through Jericho and spotting Zacchaeus in the tree. Unlike the popular children’s song, I don’t think the Lord wagged his finger at him and told him to, “Get yourself out of that tree shorty!” I’m not even sure Jesus knew Zacchaeus, personally, yet. But the Lord apparently at least knew his name, because he calls to him and tells him he’ll be at his house shortly!
So why did Zacchaeus immediately get down out of the tree and “receive him gladly” as it says? I suppose we’ll have to ask him in the age to come to know for sure. For now, I imagine it was because Jesus connected with him.
First, of course, Jesus showed up on the streets of Jericho; he didn’t just connect virtually, like you and I are doing. More importantly, Jesus looked Zacchaeus in the eye and they connected, heart to heart. I think people could tell Jesus loved them just by looking at him — because he did. Jesus was out seeking the lost and he connected with a person who was ready to be found.
The C of the ABCs of evangelism is Connect.
Nate had a great time connecting a reporter the other day. Circle of Hope showed up in the county records because we are prospectively showing up on one of the crossroads of South Jersey when we take possession of that former firehouse. Here’s what he said about the interview:
I spent some significant time with a reporter…this morning. He frequently reads the law notices for the region, and found Pennsauken Twp’s approval of the firehouse for a church last week. He thought that was a story in and of itself and called me because he’s convinced there’s not another church out there that has ever reclaimed a firehouse…
He just kept saying, “You are so interesting! This is so awesome! I can’t believe you exist!” I described the ideas of reclamation, restoration, and redemption simply as us doing with a building what Jesus is doing in the world. He couldn’t get over how loving it was for a church to use what’s there rather than build yet another building. He couldn’t believe that we’d plant something new rather than outgrowing the firehouse. He was amazed at the lack of “programs” and the strategy for relating face to face. His admitted cynicism about the church in general combined with his extensive knowledge of the region were very encouraging. He assured me of what we have long suspected…that our particular location (on Marlton Pike by the 130 corridor) is perfectly situated for us to be and do what I described to him. He wasn’t interested in doing it…but he was interested in making us known.
I doubt that the reporter would have been so interested if Nate was not so interesting. More importantly, he wouldn’t have cared so much if Nate had not cared about him. The reporter asked, “Is it OK if we talk about things that have nothing to do with my article?” A fifteen-minute interview turned into over an hour.
To connect, we’ll be going some places where people don’t know us yet. More importantly, once we get there we will openly show whatever truth and love we are carrying and see who is interested. God was disconnected from his beloved creatures. He came as a person to reconnect — and to reconnect us. He walked through Jericho that day and made a person-to-person connection with Zacchaeus. That’s elemental to evangelism. Just like Jesus, we have no lack of opportunity to connect; we run across people every day unless we are hiding out. It is mainly a matter of showing up in love and spotting the people who are up a tree. Sometimes they are stuck, sometimes they are looking for someone; we need to keep the love in our hearts in our eyes so when they see us they connect with who they need.
First step – Go to some “lane” where people don’t know you so well. In our region, that should not be too hard, since there are about six million people nearby. Be there to connect in some way. It is OK to talk to people who are waiting in line with you for coffee. You can go to a block party and introduce yourself to everyone who is there. You can ask someone, “How’s it going?” when you are at the park and mean it. This will take some courage, so take the…
Preliminary step – Connect with God from your own perch up some tree so you have something of the Spirit that can be noticed. Don’t worry that whatever small love you share with the Lord will be too small or uninformed. Just let people connect with whatever faith you’ve got. Someone is likely to receive it gladly. I received it gladly when someone showed up and we connected.